Is Guatemala Safe?

Although there are parts of Guatemala that are dangerous, most tourist destinations are very safe.

There are parts of the country that are violent and unsafe, but we do not send our clients there. The most dangerous places are in remote areas near the border with Mexico. Drug cartels and transnational gangs have a presence here and it is unwise for travelers to visit these areas.

Guatemala has had chaotic history filled with civil wars, military governments, and revolutions. The last few decades have been increasingly peaceful and have seen much more stability in government and society. One hopes that this trend will continue.

Guatemala's tourist destinations are typically very safe. There is an increased police presence in such places and minimal activity by criminal organizations. Violent crime against tourists is uncommon in these destinations. Petty theft, however, does occur. To protect yourself, don't flaunt expensive items in public and leave your valuables in a safety deposit box at your hotel. If you are robbed, don't resist. Give the thieves what they want and don't fight back.

Stick to reputable tourist destinations. Our Top Destinations are great examples of this, as are most everywhere else we send travelers. By sticking to tourism-friendly areas and activities, you'll ensure a safe trip.

If you're interested in learning more about crime and safety in Guatemala, you can do so here.

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Contact the police by calling 111 or 120. The fire department can be reached by dialing 122 or 123. The tourist police, Politur, can be reached by dialing 1500. It's also a good idea to contact your embassy if you are the victim of a crime.Complete medical care is available in Guatemala City. Smaller towns, however, may have limited medical care. Prescription and non-prescription drugs can be purchased at a pharmacies (farmacias) throughout Guatemala.

It is not safe to drink the tap water in Guatemala. To avoid traveler’s diarrhea and other water-borne diseases, drink bottled water and only eat peeled fruits like oranges and bananas. Bottled water (agua pura) is widely available in grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels. Boiling water for one minute or using iodine pills or a water filter will also purify water. Avoid fruits and veggies that require washing, and stay away from ice unless it’s made from purified water.

The safety of swimming depends on where you are and when you are swimming. The beaches along the Pacific Coast are usually safe, although they become more dangerous when the tides are changing; this is especially true at Monterrico. The Caribbean Coast is usually much calmer and is nearly always safe for swimming.

Guatemala does have snakes, especially in lowland areas. In fact, some of the world's deadliest snakes live here, including the fer-de-lance and a pit viper known as barba amarilla. The latter is easy to distinguish by its diamond-shaped head and diamond-patterned skin. Barba amarillas are somewhat common in Izabal, Verapaces, and Petén. Its bite is often fatal unless you recieve medical attention within a few hours.Other poisonous snakes in Guatemala include coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and the eyelash viper.

To protect yourself from snakes, wear long pants and high boots while you're hiking in the jungle. Be aware of where you're stepping and watch out around rocks and woodpiles. Snakes are also often found near watering holes. If you'll be hiking with a guide, let them go first; they usually have a much better eye for the snakes.

In some parts of Guatemala, crime is a problem. This is usually the case in border areas near Mexico where drug cartels and transnational gangs have established a presence. Due to this, however, we do not send our clients to such areas.Petty crime and thefts do occur in larger cities and in some tourist destinations. These crimes are not usually violent in nature, but rather involve stealing purses, wallets, or other belongings. Poverty is endemic in parts of Guatemala, and petty theft is a result of this. By taking a few simple precautions, you can usually ensure that you'll remain safe and secure.

Avoid displaying expensive items while out in public, and store valuables in a safety deposit box at your hotel. Don't hike alone; women are not advised to travel alone. Stick to tourist-friendly areas. And if you're robbed, don't resist. Give the theives what they ask for and dont fight back.

If you're interested in learning more about crime and safety in Guatemala, you can do so here.

Guatemala has good medical facilities and doctors, especially in Guatemala City’s private hospitals. Other urban areas also have high-quality private hospitals. Try to avoid public health facilities like the Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad Social (IGSS) — these cater to low-income people and are usually understaffed. Rural areas also tend to lack quality health care.There are pharmacies throughout Guatemala where travelers can purchase medicine. The cost of medical care and medicine is usually cheap in Guatemala. Travelers who are thinking of visiting more remote destinations or having off-the-beaten-path adventures, may want to consider buying travel insurance.

Not sure what travel insurance is good for? Read "Going Abroad? This is Why Travel Insurance is A MUST!" Then, get your personalized quote here.

Yes. There are pharmacies (farmacias) scattered across Guatemala and prescriptions are not necessary. Most towns have several pharmacies, with at least one open all night. Drugs are inexpensive.

No vaccinations are officially required to enter Guatemala. That said, it’s a good idea to be up-to-date on typhoid, rabies, yellow fever, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), and tetanus shots. Getting the hepatitis vaccine also makes sense. If you’ll be visiting rural lowland areas you might want to take malaria pills — you’ll need to begin taking these a few weeks before being potentially exposed to the disease.Health conditions and vaccination recommendations do change, however, so it’s best to check with your doctor for current requirements before traveling.

Guatemala has mosquitos, but the amount varies by region and the time of year. Mosquitos are most plentiful during the rainy season — during this time of year be sure to protect yourself using bug spray, long-sleeved shirts, and long-sleeved pants. Sleeping in rooms with screens over the windows and/or mosquito netting is also a good idea. Rural regions, especially in lowland coastal areas, tend to have more mosquitos than the highlands.

Yes. Guatemala produces excellent fruits and vegetables. You can find local produce at grocery stores, markets, and roadside stands. It is, however, a good idea to eat produce that requires peeling, like oranges or bananas, rather than washing — this reduces the chance of contracting a water-borne disease.

Guatemala is a tropical country and does have bugs. It is, however, not as bad as you might think, and with the proper amount of protection you will be fine.Mosquitos are found here, and are most abundant during the rainy season. If you'll be traveling in Guatemala during this time of the year be sure to take precautions to protect yourself from mosquitos, since they can transmit malaria. A good way to do so is by using insect repellent with DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Sand fleas are found in some coastal areas, particularily along the Caribbean Coast. You might not even feel them while they are biting, but you'll have welts around your ankles later on. They tend to be worst during the dry months, when oceanic breezes calm down and allow them to flourish. If you'll be visiting beaches in Guatemala, bring pants, long-sleeved shirts, a hat, and insect repellent.

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